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Throughout the month of December 2016, the Zwaanendael Museum, located at 102 Kings Highway in Lewes, Del., has been decked out for the holidays in a horticultural display created by the Sussex Gardeners, a local garden group.
Inspired by holiday-decorating techniques used at Colonial Williamsburg, the display, entitled “Preserving Our Floral Heritage,” was created in celebration of Preservation50, the 50th anniversary of the passage of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966. It features flowers, fruit, evergreen branches and other plant material preserved by using a floral desiccant or by air drying.
Desiccants used for drying plant material are granular, moisture-absorbing agents such as silica gel and fine white sand. The advantage of using desiccants is that plant material is entirely embraced and the natural contour and color of the material is more accurately preserved. The Sussex Gardeners employed two different ways of using desiccants in the display. The first method drew moisture from flowers in two to six days. The second method used a microwave in combination with silica gel and a separate dish of water. The microwave method takes a minute or two at 50% power and typically produces the best results.
The display also features plant materials that have been air dried using traditional methods. Air drying is the easiest and least expensive method for drying flowers and foliage although it takes much more time. Bunches of flowers/foliage are hung upside down in a dry, dimly lit area. The speed of evaporation of the water content in the flowers and foliage determines the drying time.
Founded in 1937, the Sussex Gardeners is one of the oldest garden clubs in the United States. It is a member of the Federation of Garden Clubs and part of The National Garden Clubs, Inc., Central Atlantic Region. Its mission is to bring together members of the community who have an interest in the fine art of gardening, landscape design, floral design and horticulture. Its community outreach includes programs in garden therapy, conservation and civic beautification.